The Budding Botanist: how do you pick a strain to grow?

how to pick a strain to grow

With more states legalizing cannabis, interest in cultivating the plant continues to rise. And while cannabis may grow like a weed, it takes time, care, and consideration to craft top-shelf buds.

GreenState knows that people have lots of questions about growing cannabis. To help take the guesswork out, professional cultivator Kurt Kinneman, owner of Kinnektion Farms and horticultural engineer at AI Grow, is here to answer your budding queries. From seed to smoke, GreenState has you covered.

RELATED: The Budding Botanist: can you grow cannabis with any light?

Question: how do you pick a strain to grow?

Deciding what strains to grow and whether to start from seed or clone is a very common query for growers. Fortunately, there are a few ways to choose. By considering your environment, your skill level, and overall goals, you’ll be able to select the perfect strain.

cannabis plant
Picking a top-shelf strain doesn’t have to be complicated Photo: Canva

Consider the end goal

With an overwhelming amount of genetics to pick from, it is good to start with the end goal of your garden in mind. What is the finished product that you are trying to create? Are you trying to grow high-quality flower for smoking? Are you growing for solventless or hydrocarbon extraction? 

This is where the garden planning needs to start. By answering these basic questions, you can narrow your genetics search to find breeders who are selecting genetics with these goals in mind. Some strains are resin-heavy, meaning they’re great for concentrate makers. Others are high in CBD, perfect for the wellness crowd.

The source matters

There are so many amazing genetics to choose from. With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabis seeds are legal to sell since they contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Since then, the diversity of the cannabis plant has exploded. Genetics companies are creating strains that not only have unique terpene profiles but also a wide range of THCa, CBDa, and other minor cannabinoid percentages. 

Humboldt Seed Company (HSC) has a line of diverse genetics that suit every growing situation, including some amazing autoflower lines and indica lines that would be great for a first-time grower. HSC have made a name for themselves around the world, but many states have local breeders that have created some amazing genetic lines. In my home state of Minnesota, Logi Blom is a trusted breeder offering some great strains for the novice grower.

Garden location is a big factor

Breeders have put a great deal of time into creating genetics that grow better in outdoor or indoor environments. When choosing a strain, it is important to look at what type of environment the breeder suggests growing the plant in and what environment you plan on growing. 

When growing outside, the temperature matters. If you’re in a warmer climate, you want to select a strain with a longer flowering time, but if you’re in a cooler climate, you want to pick something with a fast flower that will finish by the end of September. Genetics can be bred to have a natural resistance to certain pests, molds, and viruses, so it is important to understand what native bugs or diseases your plant may face in the growing environment you choose.

The sativa and indica debate

Traditionally, sativa strains will have a longer flowering time, and the plant will have a growth pattern with long, spindly branches and thin leaves. These plants can be more difficult to grow because of the increased length of cultivation time. Plus, the longer a plant grows, the more room there is for something to go wrong during the life cycle. It also means more resources that the plant will need to consume to finish to its full potential. 

Indica strains, on the other hand, can be easier to manage for first-time and novice growers. They tend to have a shorter flowering time and will be a stouter and bushier plant. A note to add is that an autoflower plant can be an indica or sativa. They both have similar flowering times, but a sativa will tend to produce longer spindly branches that can be difficult to manage.

Autoflower vs. photoperiod and regular vs. feminized

When selecting genetics for your garden, first decide what you want your final product to be, then decide what environment you are going to grow in, then choose if you want to grow an indica or sativa plant, and finally choose whether you want to grow an autoflower or photoperiod plant. 

cannabis seeds strain to grow
Cannabis seeds can be regular, feminized, or autoflower Photo: Canva

When you begin your seed search, the first thing you will probably notice is that most catalogs will be split into three main categories: autoflower seeds, regular seeds, or feminized seeds. Both regular and feminized seeds produce photoperiod plants, which means they will switch from vegetative growth to flower growth based on the amount of light they receive daily. 

Autoflower seeds grow and complete their life cycle in a defined amount of time, typically between 80 and 90 days, and cannot be cloned. When deciding between autoflowers and photoperiod seeds, space is an important consideration, as autoflower plants tend to be shorter and fit nicely into a 2×2 or 4×2 tent.

Regular seeds will produce male and female plants and have a very wide genetic diversity, which means many different phenotypes within the same strain. Feminized seeds will only produce female plants. While this may lead to an easier growth cycle, it provides less diversity in plants.

For a first-time grower, autoflowers can be an excellent introduction to the plant’s life cycle; the Hella Jelly strain from Humboldt Seed Company would be a solid choice if you wanted to go that route. If you want to grow a great indica photoperiod plant, G13 or Cheese from Logi Bloom Seed Co. are both good options.

Whatever strain you decide to grow, remember that trial and error is often the name of the game. Cannabis cultivation can be fickle, and there’s a lot that goes into growing top-shelf bud. Take notes during the life cycle of your plants, as they may come in handy when deciding whether you want to grow a certain strain again. 

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The author is solely responsible for the content.


Kurt Kinneman is a cannabis cultivator and owner of Kinnektion Farms. He is also a horticultural engineer at AI Grow, a provider of automation solutions for controlled environment agriculture. In addition to cannabis, Kurt also grows pumpkins on his family farm.